Director Risks His Life Filming Homeland

By Lauren Granada


The film documentary “Of Fathers and Sons” takes you into the life of a family living in the caliphate.

To do this, director Talal Derki traveled to Syria to follow a family with radical Islamist values.

“It’s complicated, you forget it’s your homeland, you just want to survive. Every time I go to Syria I don’t know if I’ll be able to come back to film. So this is risky with the project and with the people I work with,” Derki said.

The director went undercover for over two years to capture the everyday lifestyle of Abu Osama (45), one of the founders of Al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda, and his two eldest sons, Osama (13) and Ayman (12).

Throughout the movie, we see the complexity of Abu Osama’s character: a loving father who gives hugs and kisses to his sons, while also teaching them the violent lifestyle of a jihadist.

Derki followed the children as they made bombs with other neighborhood boys and cut off the heads of birds in their free time.

Being surrounded by young boys made him think of his own son.

“I was thinking all the time about what mistakes we made to our kids without understanding that we made it… we think that we do this for their own good sometimes, but really we broke their personality, and they take a bad legacy from us,” explained Derki.

The documentary revolves around violence and killing. However the audience never actually sees it happening. Derki has a reason for this.

“I don’t want people to get used to seeing Syrian blood and Syrian flesh in front of the camera,” he explained.

Derki hopes that people will watch his film and walk away with a true and accurate understanding of how children living in the caliphate are growing up and the lifestyle that has been chosen for them.

“Of Fathers and Sons” is nominated in the category of Best Documentary.